24 Foods That Can Save Your Heart
Salmon: Super Food
A top food for heart health, it's rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s lower risk of rhythm disorders, which can lead to sudden cardiac death. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and reduces inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other oily fish a week.
Tip: Bake in foil with herbs and veggies. Toss extra cooked salmon in fish tacos and salads.
Tuna for Omega-3s
Tuna is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3s; it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) contains more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. Reel in these other sources of omega-3s, too: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies.
Tip: Grill tuna steak with dill and lemon; choose tuna packed in water, not oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This oil, made from the first press of olives, is especially rich in heart-healthy antioxidants called polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. When olive oil replaces saturated fat (like butter), it can help lower cholesterol levels. Polyphenols may protect blood vessels.
Tip: Use for salads, on cooked veggies, with bread. Look for cold-pressed and use within six months.
A small handful of walnuts (1.5 ounces) a day may lower your cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the arteries of the heart. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. The benefits come when walnuts replace bad fats, like those in chips and cookies – and you don't increase your calorie count.
Tip: A handful has nearly 300 calories. Walnut oil has omega–3s, too; use in salad dressings.
Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, even desserts, and just a handful adds a good measure of heart health to your meals. They're chock full of vitamin E, plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Tip: Toast to enhance almonds' creamy, mild flavor.
These green soybeans are moving beyond Japanese restaurants, where they're a tasty appetizer. They're packed with soy protein, which can lower blood triglyceride levels. A half cup of edamame also has 9 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber — equal to four slices of whole-wheat bread.
Tip: Try frozen edamame, boil, and serve warm in the pod.
Make soy protein the main attraction more often at dinnertime by cooking with tofu instead of red meat. You gain all the heart-healthy minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats of soy — and you avoid a load of artery-clogging saturated fat.
Tip: Chop firm tofu, marinate, then grill or stir-fry, going easy on the oil. Add tofu to soups for protein with no added fat.
Sweet potatoes are a hearty, healthy substitute for white potatoes for people concerned about diabetes. With a low glycemic index, these spuds won't cause a quick spike in blood sugar. Ample fiber, vitamin A, and lycopene add to their heart-healthy profile.
Tip: Enhance their natural sweetness with cinnamon and lime juice, instead of sugary toppings.
This sweet, juicy fruit contains the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin — as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. A small study shows that OJ may improve blood vessel function and modestly lower blood pressure through the antioxidant hesperidin.
Tip: A medium orange averages 62 calories, with 3 grams of fiber.
This shiny, honey-colored seed has three elements that are good for your heart: fiber, phytochemicals called lignans, and ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants. The body converts ALA to the more powerful omega-3s, EPA and DHA.
Tip: Grind flaxseed for the best nutrition. Add it to cereal, baked goods, yogurt, even mustard on a sandwich.
While low-fat dairy is most often touted for bone health, these foods can help control high blood pressure, too. Milk is high in calcium and potassium and yogurt has twice as much of these important minerals. To really boost the calcium and minimize the fat, choose low-fat or non-fat varieties.
Tip: Use milk instead of water in instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, and dried soups.
Foods Fortified With Sterols
Want the heart-healthy power of vegetables in your milk or on toast? Margarine, soy milk, or orange juice can deliver — when they're fortified with cholesterol-fighting sterols and stanols. These plant extracts block cholesterol absorption in the gut and can lower LDL levels by 10% without affecting good cholesterol.
Tip: Consume at least 2 grams of sterols a day.